Christian Co-Chairperson's Report
Ron and I reflect on different aspects of the year's program so that you don't hear the same story twice. I will recall briefly the Interfaith Seder; the Teaching Eucharist; and the Zemirot Celebration of Psalms and Songs. I will then refer to one of the interesting projects brought to the Sydney ICCJ Conference by New Zealand Delegates.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge our Patrons and Executive Committee members. It has been a pleasure to share the leadership of our Council with Ron Hoenig during the past year. He is energetic and imaginative in his interest to advance the work of the Council. Our Patrons Mrs. Lynette Ninio (who accepted the invitation to be our Jewish Patron during the year, and Dr. Don Hopgood (our Christian Patron) are important and respected representatives of our two communities helping to foster our principles of dialogue, respect and diversity in the wider community.
I would like to acknowledge the work of Dawn Colsey, our Secretary. She is always alert to detail and very efficient in her communications. Merrilyn Ades has continued as treasurer and has been a wonderful host to our Executive Meetings again this year. Michael Trainor has been a most valuable Executive Committee member – in many ways we see him as our 'thinker in residence'.
- The Interfaith Seder at Beit Shalom Synagogue was a memorable event again this year. The members of the Christian communities present were able to experience something of the joy and expectation of a Passover Celebration through the helpful introduction and explanations provided by Rabbi Kaminsky as the Seder meal progressed.
- In April, at The ADC Chapel of Reconciliation, the Rev'd Dr Alan Cadwallader presented and celebrated a Christian Eucharist in the Anglican tradition with teaching to explain connections with the Passover and the Exodus. He included an early Christian practice of recalling the Exodus 3 (et al) promise of 'a land flowing with milk and honey' and a communal sharing of cheese and honey to be symbolic of this destiny for the People of God. This was equally a moving celebration for all who were present.
- Our last meeting for 2007 took the form of a celebration of praise through psalms and songs of the Jewish and Christian traditions. This took place at the Church of the Trinity Uniting Church on Goodwood Road, Clarence Park. Five choirs presented us with some most beautiful singing – both joyous and reflective. From individual voices to wonderful harmonies, the singing was inspiring and a variety of psalms and songs offered praise to God. The choirs taking part were the Choir of Beit Shalom Synagogue; the Westminster School Chapel Choir; the Russian Orthodox Monastery of Prophet Elias; the Viet Linh Choir from the Pooraka Vietnamese Catholic Community; and an alumni singing group of former Brighton High School students 'Limited Edition. I was taken by the level of enjoyment expressed by each of the choirs. They each commented on how much they gained from listening and appreciating each other's work.
- Here I take you back to the ICCJ Conference in Sydney, last July. One important and current interfaith project in New Zealand was brought to us by three delegates of a working party developing the Statement on Religious Diversity in New Zealand. Professor Philip Morris (the Jewish representative) of the Victoria University of Wellington had prepared the draft of the 8 point statement. He spoke of the need in their country to experience acceptance and respect for religious diversity in both national and local community settings. Archbishop John Dew (Christian) and Rehanna Ali (Islamic Women's Council), also members of the working group, described some of the responses received from consultations held around the country. It is a very encouraging story.
You can discover its progress for yourself by “googling” on the net for New Zealand Statement on Religious Diversity or going to the Human Rights Commission site – www.hrc.co.nz. The statement has its origins in 2004 and has begun a significant journey in a very short space of time with the help of the New Zealand Government and the Human Rights Commission. We know New Zealand is smaller than Australia but it significant that key people in the Government and the NZ HRC believed the project and its goals were important enough to actively assist its progress.
I set out the eight point statement here for your interest. “…its purpose is to provide a framework for the recognition of New Zealand's diverse faith communities and their harmonious interaction with each other, with government and with other groups in society.”
The State and Religion
- The State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law. New Zealand has no official or established religion.
- The Right to Religion. New Zealand upholds the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of religious or other belief.
- The Right to Safety. Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.
- The Right to Freedom of Expression. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media are vital for democracy but should be exercised with responsibility.
- Recognition and Accommodation. Reasonable steps should be taken in education and work environments and in the delivery of public services to recognise and accommodate diverse religious beliefs and practices.
- Education. Schools should teach an understanding of different religious and spiritual traditions in a manner that reflects the diversity of their national and local community.
- Religious Dfferences. Debate and disagreement about religious beliefs will occur but must be exercised within the rule of law and without resort to violence.
- Cooperation and Understanding. Government and faith communities have a responsility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect and understanding.
Could we, through the national CCJ and the wider inter-faith community be the catalyst group for a project like this in Australia?. The July Conference certainly challenged all representatives attending to continue in their commitment to inter-faith dialogue. I am sure it is true – that when different religious faiths and cultures work together, they put themselves in a position to lead the wider community toward harmony and good relations.
Finally, thankyou to all the members and associates of the Council for your participation in our programs during 2007. In the coming year we look forward to growing our profile around our member Church and Synagogue communities and to strengthen our understanding and friendship through intentional inter-faith dialogue.